by Tracy L. Carbone
One of the most common questions I am asked as a writer is where I get my ideas from. The honest answer to that would be something like, “How do I stop the ideas from coming?” The thing about being a writer is that each thing you encounter, even the most mundane, can spark an idea to file and use later. Above, I found a smiley face in a bread stick. Writing prompts are all around.
To make sure I don’t miss any opportunities, I follow the advice of Ray Bradbury in his book, Zen in the Art of Writing.
At the end of each day I try to write down anything even remotely interesting that I’ve seen. It’s not a diary per se, but a list of images. For example, I might jot down, “lady yelling at kid in store, street musician in Fanueil Hall, melted chocolate on seat, almost getting in a car accident.” Sometimes it’s months or years before I flip through the ideas in the book and use them but they’re always there, waiting their turn.
Street names are another great trigger for creativity. When I’m driving, if I’ve got a passenger who can type for me, I use the note function on my phone to write down streets names or important things to burn into memory. My daughter and I recently completed a very long drive through Canada and northern Maine. That area is rife with images. Here are “phone notes” from the drive to give you an example. “Crawford Bible Fellowship, Lord’s Point, Hardscrabble Farm, Big red building with small brown barn, buildings boarded up, devil faces on telephone poles, Harm’s Way.”
Add to that some pictures I took along the way and the story can almost write itself. I look at the pictures below, recall the memories, and it’s a walk in the park if you toss in a little creativity.
But what about when it doesn’t seem there are any interesting things to write about? Well, I highly recommend this little gem of a book. It’s called Creative Block by Lou Harry. It’s got short phrases and photos to jolt you into making a mental image and hopefully a story. It’s surprisingly helpful for such a small book.
Once you’ve got burning ideas, just start typing, or hand writing if that’s your preference. Before you know it, you’ll have a nice little draft of a story, or a great scene in a book.
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